When Arsenal played ‘direct-ball’ against Everton, and especially when Arsene Wenger talked about the change in Arsenal’s tactics as being necessary, it marked a very special moment in Arsenal’s history.
For a start, after a couple of poor years (by their standards), Arsenal are now a side brimming with confidence. It is this confidence that allows them to step on a pitch expecting to win the game; it is this confidence in Arsenal’s players that is taken as arrogance by supporters of other clubs (including yours truly) and it is this confidence that will sustain them in their title scrap with Manchester United.
More important than the confidence is the change in Arsene Wenger’s own philosophy. After years of whinging about opponents being overtly physical and sticking to their one ‘true’ style of play, Arsenal have changed this season. They’ve added a physical element to their game, something that enabled them to get out of away games without losing. Instead of complaining, Wenger and Arsenal have learned to fight back.
And the Everton game marked the most significant and visible change – instead of sticking to their default game, Arsenal were flexible, tactically aware and intelligent on the pitch. They should that you could win – and win pretty, if you see how Adebayor and Rosicky combined for that last goal – if you change gears play more direct.
The press keeps talking about Arsenal’s team as being ‘young’ but this is a grown-up team both in age and in mental strength – and that shows in their game this season. What’s probably gone unnoticed is the change in Arsene Wenger, as he’s evolved as a manager as well and imbued a new level of toughness and flexibility in his charges.